* Oil supported by encouraging signs of U.S. economic growth
* U.S. crude on course for biggest weekly gain since early
By Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen
SINGAPORE, March 28 Brent steadied below $108
per barrel on Friday, retaining most of its gains from the prior
session and heading for the first weekly rise in five, on
promising U.S. data and fears geopolitical tensions could dent
supply from Russia.
The U.S. economy grew a bit faster than estimated in the
fourth quarter and new claims for jobless aid fell to a near
four-month low last week, suggesting a brighter outlook for
demand in the world's biggest oil consumer.
Brent crude was down 7 cents at $107.76 a barrel by
0801 GMT, after gaining 80 cents on Thursday, but prices were
headed for an almost 1 percent gain for the week.
U.S. crude edged up 11 cents at $101.39 per barrel,
after settling $1.02 higher in the previous session. It was on
track for a 1.9 percent weekly rise, the highest since early
February, on continued drawdown in oil stocks at Cushing, the
pricing point for the U.S. benchmark.
"We are seeing a firmer overall global demand outlook, which
will likely support oil markets," said Michael McCarthy, chief
strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney.
"Durable goods orders in transport are in general strong
indicator for energy markets. The numbers show that demand is
rising," McCarthy said, referring to orders for long-lasting
U.S. manufactured goods that rebounded in February, ending two
straight months of decline.
SUPPLY WORRIES UNDERPIN
Oil prices also continued to draw support from the Ukraine
crisis, worries about which had eased slightly earlier this week
after the U.S. President and his allies agreed to hold off on
more damaging economic sanctions against Russia, the world's top
oil producer, unless Moscow goes beyond the seizure of Crimea.
But on Wednesday, the U.S. and the European Union agreed to
work together to prepare tougher sanctions against Russia and to
make Europe less dependent on Russian gas.
"We still see some risk premium over Ukraine build into oil
prices," said McCarthy.
Other supply worries also underpinned prices.
In Libya, protesters have blocked a pipeline carrying around
30,000 barrels per day of oil condensate from the southwestern
al-Wafa oilfield to the Mellitah export port, state-owned
National Oil Corp (NOC) said on Thursday.
NOC this week said Libya's total output stood at 155,000
barrels per day (bpd), after the 130,000 bpd El Feel field,
co-operated by ENI, had stopped producing. The 340,000 bpd El
Sharara field shut down weeks ago.
Libya's exports have been well below its capacity of around
1.25 million bpd since July 2013 when militias and protesters
began blocking its major oil export terminals and oilfields.
(Editing by Himani Sarkar)